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Why do we gaze at our fingernails in the light of the havdallah candle?

Why do we gaze at our fingernails in the light of the havdallah candle?

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We look at our nails during havdalah because:

a. In order to make the blessing on the candle, it must be close and bright enough to be able to distinguish different currencies by its light. If we can distinguish between our nails and flesh we know that we're okay.

b. Nails are a siman brocho (sign of blessing) because they are constantly growing. So we start off our week by gazing at a siman brocho.

c. The midrash says that the original fire emanated from Adam's fingernails.

d. Another midrash says that on the first Motzoei Shabbos, when the world became dark for the first time, Adam said "woe is to me, for because of my sin the world has become dark." G-d then gave Adam the wisdom to rub two flint-stones together, and when fire sprang forth Adam made the blessing (Borey Meoray Ha'aish), and realized that he was completely naked – aside from his nails.

Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Chaya Mushka and their three children.
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Discussion (4)
January 21, 2013
a response to Orna
a blessing to acknowledge the wondrous works of our nails growing. similar to how asher yatzar prayer acknowledges our wondering internal workings.
Anonymous
Brooklyn
December 1, 2012
why do we gaze at our fingernails to the light of the havdalla candle?
Hi, Regarding the second reason you mentioned, if nails are a blessing why is it then that when we clip them we need to flush them down the toilet or burn them and erase any sign of of their existence? Thank you Orna
Orna Tennenbaum
December 1, 2012
Would you explain explanation (d) again--in slow motion--for me?
You wrote: "when fire sprang forth Adam made the blessing (Borey Meoray Ha'aish), and realized that he was completely naked – aside from his nails." I didn't quite understand this midrash; Are you saying that there is something about our fingernails that is not nakedness? Maybe I just need that last line restated in different words. I didn't quite understand what that pretty midrash about the first darkness on motzoei-shabbos has to do with fingernails.
Robert
Connecticut
December 1, 2012
Havdalah
Do chabad women also look at their nails during havdalah i was told not
Anonymous
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